The Rapidian

The Spoke Folks: Cooperative biking community

Jay Niewiek looks to further The Spoke Folks, a cooperative biking community with the intentions of engaging and supporting the biking community and making biking affordable and available for all people in Grand Rapids.
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Get Involved, Learn More

To learn more about The Spoke Folks, contact Jay Niewiek at [email protected]. Previous meeting minutes can be found on the Web site and discussion is open on the group’s Facebook page.

The next meeting will be on March 24 to start setting up their new shop space and is open to the public. For more details, please visit their Web site.

When Jay Niewiek moved to Grand Rapids four years ago, he continued doing something that he had always done: riding his bicycle. Jay bikes for work, bikes for leisure, and bikes for play. In his time in Grand Rapids, Niewiek has started The Grand Pedicab Company and has also been the president of Grand Rapids Bike Polo. These biking communities proved to hold their place in Grand Rapids’ bike culture; however, Niewiek noticed a void… and an opportunity.

After brainstorming with fellow bicyclists, Niewiek decided to form The Spoke Folks. The Spoke Folks is a cooperative biking community with the intentions of engaging and supporting the biking community and making biking affordable and available for all people in Grand Rapids.

Though the group is still in the planning stages, Niewiek notes that he wants to keep the conversation going; the idea of The Spoke Folks has taken off and a group already meets regularly for discussion and the gathering of ideas.

“I’m confident that this will turn into something that’s very exciting,” said Niewiek. “…but I want to make sure that this isn’t driven by only me, but by the entire community. At the end of the day, we have meetings with whoever is investing his/her time to show up because we want peoples’ input.”

In establishing The Spoke Folks as a community-driven cooperative, Niewiek hopes for collaboration with all sorts of groups: non-profit and for-profit businesses, various community organizations, and general volunteers. Niewiek has also noted that many in the community have already stepped forward in support of the movement. Tyler Doornbos and Josh Leffingwell of Friendly Corps (previously Bike Friendly GR) have been a part of the conversation from the beginning and look to continue planning and creating in part with The Spoke Folks.

“It’s great to have people step up; Tyler [Doornbos] has already built us a great Web site which has been a great start,” said Niewiek. “That has already helped to spread the word.”

In planning for the future, The Spoke Folks has considered a variety of resources to support the biking community in Grand Rapids. Niewiek talks of developing a collaborative space or community bike shop where the general public can turn for all things biking: repairs, affordable bikes, advice, classes, and simply a place for community.

“With the idea of having a space, we’d hope to always have an answer or reference for everyone,” said Niewiek. “There should be no reason for people to come in and say ‘I can’t afford it,’” he continues. “How exactly we will do that is yet to come, but that’s how we hope to continue.”

For Niewiek, the overall goals are clear: be a resource, engage and support, and collaborate with and cultivate community. But in listening and gathering, The Spoke Folks will be taken where it is needed. “If you’d like to hear more or become involved, we’d love to have you – this is what it’s all about,” said Niewiek. “You’re more than welcome to be a part of it; you can come with no experience at all and there will be a spot for you.”


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